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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Short Stop in Vancouver.B.C.

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector
Urban Sustainability Agent, Pinellas County Extension

I recently had the opportunity to visit Vancouver, British Columbia for an international conference on sustainability – the conference planners totally lucked out with this location! Vancouver is well known for its sustainability initiatives and it plans on becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020. Check here for Vancouver’s green city plan. In this blog, I’ll share my insights about Vancouver’s green efforts.

Although the conference was a short one, I couldn’t resist the opportunity for an early afternoon stroll through downtown Vancouver. The hotel was conveniently located in the city center and little did I know that it was connected to a modern shopping oasis called the Pacific Shopping Centre. Tempted as I was, I actually started my tour in Gastown.

I could easily tell that this was an historic neighborhood with its cobblestone streets and old Victorian buildings. The chic restaurants, trendy furniture stores, lofts and bars all with on street parking screamed urban renewal. The Gastown Steam Clock had a flock of tourists taking photos, including me! The clock replica is powered by a series of underground pipes which also heat downtown buildings. At night, Gastown gleamed with LED light strings and bustled with people.

Elsewhere in Vancouver, old and new buildings were creatively used. Lofts, offices and gyms were seamlessly woven into the downtown fabric. From my vantage point at the hotel, I could easily locate green spaces which weren’t restricted to street level view. In fact, many of the skyscrapers had green spaces and the parking garage at Vancouver International had a green wall installation. Trendy apartments along the waterfront had great vistas but were also well connected via the transit system.

The mixed uses in both the historic neighborhood and the traditional downtown provide many opportunities for residents to develop a sense of place and community where they live. The ability to work and play close to where you live is definitely sustainable. You save money on your commute, develop deeper relations with your neighbors, and contribute to economic stability within your community.

In the next blog, I’ll talk about Vancouver’s transit system.

EPA Livability Principles
American Planning Association
Land Use fact sheet
Land Use: Subdivision Design fact sheet


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